Courses: First-Year Seminars

Many First-Year Seminars are offered every Fall semester for incoming students.  All of our First-Year Seminars courses are open to every incoming, first-year student,* though students who wish to enroll in RHET 195 should follow guidelines regarding Directed Self-Placement.  Transfer students may enroll in one of our Transfer-Year Seminars.  RHET 195 and RHET 295 courses are typically the only First-Year Seminar classes offered in Spring semesters. 

Every incoming student may only enroll in one First-Year Seminar, so that this opportunity is available to all.  Those who inadvertently enroll in multiple FYS courses will be asked to remove one from their schedule and enroll in a different available course.  Questions can be addressed to the Associate Dean for Arts & Humanities, Jeffrey Paris.

(* Eligible students may sometimes be prevented from registering online in a First-Year Seminar due to accumulated course credits from AP or IB or community college courses, along with credits from their first semester at USF if you are trying to enroll in a Spring semester course.  Even if you have in excess of 32 credits applied toward graduation, you may still be able to enroll in a FYS course.  If you think this applies to you, please contact your Webtrack Adviser or your CASA Academic Success Coach <casa@usfca.edu>.)

Spring 2021 Courses

Core A2 - Rhetoric and Composition

RHET 195-01 Language and Power

CRN # 20087
Genevieve Leung
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 11:45am–12:50pm

Language and Power examines the rhetoric of nationalism and the ways in which language and power are entwined. We will discursively analyze a diverse range of texts (laws, photographs, advertisements, films): who writes these texts, for what purpose, and with what agenda? How do we analyze past events through the lens of historical context and also current perspectives? How does inclusion/exclusion of certain events, perspectives, and voices impact the outcome of different texts? With a specific focus on how the rhetoric of nationalism has affected (and continues to affect) Asian Pacific Americans, we will link these discourses with other contexts within the U.S. and abroad and consider why issues of cultural (mis)representation must be addressed as we strive for social justice. Together with guest speakers and virtual trips to local sites, we will critically discuss language and power, interact with primary and secondary sources, and craft papers in response to these course themes.

RHET 195-02 Freedom of Speech

CRN # 21990
Ted Matula
Tues. & Thu. 12:45–2:30 p.m.

Free expression is a cornerstone of any democratic society, yet history is littered with attempts to limit, constrain, or outright ban speech that is considered harmful, dangerous, obscene, or inappropriate to one political group or another. In this class, we'll look at free expression from legal, ethical, and political standpoints, studying court cases and philosophical arguments about the limits of free speech. We'll examine arguments about how to balance the need for free expression with the perceived harms (to democracy, to equality, to truth) of certain kinds of "dangerous" speech, from microagressions to false advertising to anti-government rhetoric to hate speech to pornography.   We'll also cover the role of free and open expression in a democratic society, examining the forces that hinder the free and fair exchange of ideas--including corporate interests, anti-science rhetoric, and the inherent biases of the "marketplace" of ideas.

RHET 195-03 Intersection: Sidewalks and Public Space

CRN # 20088
Nicole Mauro
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 1:00–2:05 p.m.

Intersection: Sidewalks and Public Space uses the sidewalk to explore the various, often subversive, forms of argument occurring in our urban landscape. We use sidewalks to move from place to place without explicitly acknowledging sidewalks are also the places where we manufacture and maintain, as well as disrupt, civilized social discourse. Given the current political and social climate in which we see peaceful protests clash with more militant, violent ones, it is critical we examine the role public space plays in driving rhetoric. Course topics include: protests, riots, graffiti, street art, vandalism, surveillance, gentrification, and other issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially as they inform public and private space. Interdisciplinary works about sidewalks and urban landscapes will inspire students to engage in issues that occur on, and because of, sidewalks, and consider how (and by whom) sidewalks are “supposed” to be used, why sidewalks spark social critique and the expression of personal sentiment, and the powerful, often anonymous, agendas they pursue.

 

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Fall 2020 Courses

Core A1 - Public Speaking

RHET 195-05 Sports Talk

CRN # 42430
John Ryan
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 10:30–11:35 a.m.

Sports Talk uses the world of sports to investigate public discourse. You will use the rhetoric of athletes, coaches, owners, and fans as a springboard into the study of public speech and public communication. The class emphasizes a critical approach as students immerse themselves in the history of sports communication from the early twentieth century up to the present. Students will have the opportunity to explore the historical and social changes that have been inspired by our national fascination with sports. We will visit local venues and examine what these facilities say about our priorities and our values.

Core A2 - Rhetoric and Composition

RHET 195-01 Writing about Human Rights

CRN # 40484
Julie Sullivan
Tues. & Thu. 2:40–4:25 p.m.

What does it mean to have rights?  Do all humans share equal access to these rights? And, if they do, then why do we see human rights violations go unpunished throughout the world, including in our own country? In this class we will explore the sometimes broad and overwhelming topic of Human Rights through the different forms of media available. Based on timeliness and interest, the course will explore Human Rights issues in areas such as: Criminal Justice, Employment, Education, Gender equity, Healthcare, Hunger, and Immigration. This class requires all involved to be learners, teachers, and individuals willing to voice concerns and create awareness. How you choose to vocalize will be up to you.

RHET 195-02 Women, Rhetoric, & Power

CRN # 40485
Kara Knafelc
Mon. & Wed. 4:45–6:25 p.m.

What does it mean to speak? What does it mean to be silent? What does it mean to be heard? From antiquity to present day, women orators, writers, and rhetoricians have demonstrated a particular interest in addressing these questions. In this course, we will examine the work of numerous women rhetoricians, poets, and writers to explore how they have communicated their arguments in the political, artistic, and personal spheres. So too, we will explore the work of male thinkers and writers who have used “ventriloquism” to experiment with the liberated female voice. Finally, we will evaluate whether the rhetorical practices of women have something to lend to the broader social justice movement in its attempt to ensure rights for those who historically have been rendered voiceless and powerless.

RHET 195-03 Rhetoric of Free Expression

CRN # 40486
Ted Matula
Tue. & Thu. 12:45–2:30 p.m.

Free expression is a cornerstone of any democratic society, yet history is littered with attempts to limit, constrain, or outright ban speech that is considered harmful, dangerous, obscene, or inappropriate to one political group or another. In this class, we'll look at free expression from legal, ethical, and political standpoints, studying court cases and philosophical arguments about the limits of free speech. We'll examine arguments about how to balance the need for free expression with the perceived harms (to democracy, to equality, to truth) of certain kinds of "dangerous" speech, from microagressions to false advertising to anti-government rhetoric to hate speech to pornography.  And in an election year, we'll also cover the role of free and open expression in a democratic society, examining the forces that hinder the free and fair exchange of ideas--including corporate interests, anti-science rhetoric, and the inherent biases of the "marketplace" of ideas.

RHET 195-01 Language and Power (HONC)

CRN # 42261
Nicole Gonzales Howell
Tue. & Thu. 12:45–2:30 p.m.

Language and Power examines the rhetoric of nationalism and the ways in which language and power are entwined. We will discursively analyze a diverse range of texts (laws, photographs, advertisements, films): who writes these texts, for what purpose, and with what agenda? How do we analyze past events through the lens of historical context and also current perspectives? How does inclusion/exclusion of certain events, perspectives, and voices impact the outcome of different texts? With a specific focus on how the rhetoric of nationalism has affected (and continues to affect) Asian Pacific Americans, we will link these discourses with other contexts within the U.S. and abroad and consider why issues of cultural (mis)representation must be addressed as we strive for social justice. Together with guest speakers and trips to local sites, we will critically discuss language and power, interact with primary and secondary sources, and craft papers in response to these course themes. [This course restricted to students participating in the Honors College.]

Core B2 - Applied or Laboratory Science

ENVS 195-01 & 195L-01 What’s In Your Water? w/Laboratory

CRN # 41222 & 41238
Lauren Sassoubre
Tue. & Thu. 9:55–11:10 p.m. & R 1:00-4:25 p.m.

What’s in your water? In the US, the average person uses 80-100 gallons of water per day. Where does this water come from? Is it safe to drink? Where does our wastewater go? In this course, students will think critically about how we use water resources and provide clean water to humans and the environment. Water is often a contentious and limited resource, especially in California. Students will engage with each other through readings, field trips, lectures, and case studies to discuss the history and future of water both locally and globally. Emphasis will be placed on field trips and case studies in the Bay Area and California. In the laboratory component of this course, students will learn how to measure important water quality parameters, assess chemical and microbial pollution and evaluate water treatment technologies.

Core C1 - Literature

FREN 195-01 A Season in the Congo

CRN # 41252
Karen Bouwer
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 2:15–3:20 p.m.

What can we learn about ourselves and the world by spending a season in the Congo, a country whose history has been fraught with violence and has brought together people from Africa, Europe and the Americas from the outset? Some of the questions we will be asking are what to do with statues in Congo and the former colonial power Belgium, how to foreground women neglected in the history of colonialism, and how marginalized youth navigate life in the sprawling megalopolis of Kinshasa, affirming that their Black Lives Matter. We will bring literary texts (including a steampunk novel by an African American author) into dialogue with other arts including photography, film, painting and music and will enjoy enriching conversations with invited speakers and virtual explorations of museums. Students will also have the opportunity to do research on novels from Congo’s “French-speaking” neighbors (Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi) focusing on issues ranging from ethnic identity and coming of age to child soldiers and genocide. [Also meets Cultural Diversity or “CD” Core Requirement]

CMPL 195-01 The Beauty of the Beast in Literature

CRN # 41014
Anne Mairesse
Tue. & Thu. 9:55–11:40 a.m.

This seminar focuses on the representation of animals in Literature. Animals for writers are tools to explore issues related to a particular social, cultural or political context. To invoke animals questions what is human and what's not. In this seminar students compare animal imageries in novels, short stories, plays, and poems, in light of essays from various disciplines such as anthropology, philosophy, animal studies, which invite them to rethink their relation to the animal world. [Also meets Cultural Diversity or "CD" Core Requirement]

SPAN 195-01 Latinx Art & Community in SF

CRN # 42417
Karina Hodoyan
Tue. & Thu. 2:40–4:25 p.m.

This is an introductory survey course that examines the roots of Latin/x American literary and visual art in the San Francisco Bay Area with a focus on how the community responds in times of crisis: colonization and invasion, booms and busts, earthquakes, and pandemics. We will study the role art and language played in imagining and documenting the history of Latinx communities, from the Missions to modern-day San Francisco. A special focus will be on Latinx social movements as constituting a key part of the legacy of this city, particularly how artists and the community have responded to COVID-19. The course includes special lectures by artists and writers, and visits to museums, theatre, or films in the city. [Also meets Cultural Diversity Core Requirement]

Core D1 - Philosophy

PHIL 195-02 What is Wisdom?

CRN # 41554
Thomas Cavanaugh
Tue. & Thu. 9:55–11:40 a.m.

Literally, philosophy means the love of wisdom. So, philosophy is about our desire for knowledge, like wisdom. What is wisdom? Who is wise? Does wisdom make us happy? Is ignorance bliss? Why pursue wisdom? Wanting wisdom, yet not sure of what it is, we will ask these and other questions: does suffering lead to wisdom? does wisdom comfort the wise person? does the wise person comfort others? are science and technology wisdom? do they require wisdom to be used well? how does your USF education fit into a search for wisdom? is wisdom worth pursuing? We will ask these questions relying on Socrates, Confucius, Descartes, and the French existentialist Simone Weil; by reading the Tao Te Ching and novels such as Brave New World; by watching movies like The Matrix and Gattaca. We will also visit the San Francisco Asian Art Museum to see fascinating ancient objects related to Confucianism.

PHIL 195-03 Minds & Machines

CRN # 42430
Rebecca Mason
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 9:15–10:20 a.m.

You spend your entire life inside your own head. There is nothing that you know more intimately than the contents of your own mind: your beliefs, your memories, your desires, your fears, your pains and pleasures. Despite the fact that you are directly acquainted with your thoughts and experiences, the human mind is in many ways more mysterious than even the far reaches of the universe. In this course, we will investigate the nature of the mind, and the relationship between the mind, the brain, and the body. We will also critically examine some of the ethical and social implications of artificial intelligence. The course will culminate in a field trip to the Ford Motor Company Research and Innovation Center where students will have the opportunity to discuss these topics with some of the researchers, engineers and scientists who grapple with them in practice.

Core D2 - Theology & Religious Studies

THRS 195-01 Transcendence in Film & Fiction

CRN # 41782
Mark Miller
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 2:15–3:20 p.m.

Why do we live?  What is real?  How do we know?  Human living is in many ways problematic.  Are there ultimately any answers?  In this course, we shall examine human life from its darkest depths to its most brilliant heights – from sin, nihilism, and violence to virtue, love, and reconciliation.  A community’s narratives, told in various forms, are considered a privileged way of sharing and reflecting on such fundamental questions, in part because they affect the whole person.  We shall examine the heights and depths of human life as narrated in novels and movies that stimulate our senses and our imaginations, challenge our meanings and values, and guide our actions and our lives.  Works we will consider include Dostoyevski’s Brothers Karamazov, Sartre’s Nausea, and Spike Lee’s Malcolm X.

THRS 195-03 Strangers in Paradise: Migrants & Diaspora Religion in San Francisco

CRN # 42410
Lois Lorentzen
M 11:45 a.m.–3:25 p.m.

This course explores San Francisco’s rich migrant history and its dynamic present. Over a third of our city’s population was born outside the United States. The course engages the Bay Area’s migrant communities through studying the many religions brought to San Francisco and the role of religion in incorporating new migrants to life in their new home. Throughout the semester we will study diaspora religions such as Santeria and vodou that have their roots in Afro and Afro-Caribbean religions: Santa Muerte, a popular saint from Mexico, as well as Pentecostal, Muslim, Hindu, Roman Catholic, and Buddhist groups and practitioners from countries such as China, India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Haiti, Cuba, Mexico, El Salvador, Iran. We will visit religious sites and immigrant organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area throughout the semester.

Core D3 - Philosophy

PHIL 195-02 Moral Responsibility

CRN # 42404
Nick Leonard
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 2:15–3:20 p.m.

What makes an action morally right or morally wrong? Why do we hold one another morally accountable? What are we responsible for: our beliefs, or our actions and their consequences? How far does responsibility extend? Does it extend to non-human animals, or to corporations, or to the unborn? In this seminar, we consider different philosophical approaches to these questions, and we will also look at works by experts in related disciplines such as legal theory and cognitive psychology.

Core E - Social Sciences

CDS 195-01 Youth and the City

CRN # 40948
Nicole Gonzales Howell
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 2:15–3:20 p.m.

Youth are everywhere, yet at the same time they are seemingly nowhere. Considered by many to be a temporary, transitional stage between childhood and adulthood, those label as “the youth” are often read as apathetic, with a self-centric way of carrying on with life. However, generation after generation, youth represent to many the key, and strongest hope for a more advanced, inclusive and diversified future. This course focuses on youth movements in the United States, with the mission of seeking and securing social justice for those positioned as marginalized groups. We will examine the adaptive capabilities and strengths of selected youth led movements, as well as their weaknesses and shortcomings. This course will provide a historical understanding of youth led/participation in movements in multiple generations, along with the space to capture/generate questions, concerns and develop class projects that will help the participants in this course tackle the difficult question, “What is my generation’s mission(s)?”

ENVA 195-02 Humanity and Future Earth

CRN # 41184
Aaron Frank
Tues. & Thu. 2:40–4:25 p.m.

This course considers the dramatic transformation of the Earth currently underway, the ways humans broke away from our balance with nature to create technology and take over the planet, and how humanity is shaping the future of the planet. The course begins by looking at the natural forces that shaped human nature, and then in turn how humans shaped the rest of the natural world. We take a broad look through the big revolutions in history – cognitive, agricultural, and scientific – that brought us to this moment. We consider the existential threats of nuclear war, climate change, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence, but also address what our species might look like as technology continues to grow exponentially. To envision the future, we apply analytical frameworks from ecology, evolutionary biology, economics, and the humanities.

BAIS 195-01 The Immigrant Experience

CRN # 40846
Quỳnh Pham
Tues. & Thu. 2:40–4:25 p.m.

In this course, we will consider how global movements of migration are shaped by different histories, geopolitics, economies, cultures, and ecologies. In particular, we will focus on experiences of migration that are tied to various forms of displacement. “No one leaves home unless / home is the mouth of a shark / you only run for the border / when you see the whole city running as well,” writes Warsan Shire. We will think together about the meanings of home, the production of “shark,” the demarcation of borders, and the conditions of running. The course draws from multiple disciplines to address themes that include colonialism, war, labor, gender, sexuality, memory, cultural friction, and translation. Course materials reflect diverse migrant experiences and combine different genres such as short stories, poetry, films, memoirs, and ethnography. Students will compose analytical and creative assignments in addition to participating actively in class discussions and activities. [Also meets Cultural Diversity or "CD" Core Requirement]

INTD 195-01 Law and Order: San Francisco

CRN # 42436
Ed Lenert
Wed. 11:45 a.m. – 3:25 p.m.

Drawing on the famous TV series​ Law & Order ​as inspiration, this first-year seminar will focus on the criminal and civil justice systems and will feature carefully selected readings plus regular field trips to local state and federal courtrooms to attend arraignments, hearings, trials, and sentencing. A significant goal of the course is to help you discuss, analyze and write about social justice as practiced in our society and as depicted in movies and television. In addition, you will be exposed to a social science methodology and a language for describing the relationships between law and social justice. You will be given the opportunity to make first-hand observations about the criminal and civil justice systems, and speak to participants through informal meetings or guest lectures. Optionally, you may elect to participate in the SF Police Department’s Ride-Along program, where citizens accompany officers as they go about their daily operations.

Core F - Visual and Performing Arts

ART 195-01 Art in Multicultural San Francisco

CRN # 40815
Karen Fraser
Fri. 11:45 a.m. – 3:25 p.m.

This class is geared to students who are curious, adventurous, and imaginative. You’ll get to know the museums and art destinations of this city through field trips to the Legion of Honor, Museo Italo Americano, Contemporary Jewish Museum, SFMoMA, MoAD, SFAI and Coit Tower.  You’ll be immersed in the cultural diversity and beauty of this city, and learn about painting, photography, and installation art through direct encounters with the art in the various exhibitions we see. You’ll keep a photography journal on your phone, write personal reflection essays about your research in the museums, collaborate on an artist’s book, and read essays by Rebecca Solnit, Tea Uglow, Hayden Herrera, Glenn Ligon, among others. The artist’s book we create will be displayed in a pop-up show at Thacher Gallery in October.  No prior art training is needed for this class.

DANC 195-01 Dance in San Francisco

CRN # 41098
Megan Nicely
Tue. & Thu. 2:40–4:25 p.m.

San Francisco is home to one of the most vibrant and diverse dance communities in the country. Exploring the range of movement styles, dance artists, companies, and organizations at work in the Bay Area provides us with a unique opportunity to understand the vanguard of contemporary performance and the many historical and cultural threads that underlie these practices. By participating in a range of movement classes both on and off campus, attending performances, learning from guest artists, and engaging in both academic and creative movement activities, students will discover the ways dance both supports and challenges dominant cultural values, narratives, and ideals of its time.  No prior dance experience is necessary.

MUS 195-01 Opera (Love, Death, Intrigue) in San Francisco

CRN # 41517
Alexandra Amati
Tue. & Thu. 12:45–2:30 p.m.

Opera: where you can do anything so long as you sing it! This course explores the world of opera and the issues presented in (or hidden under) beautiful singing. We will learn about this often extravagant art form and what it says about the society in and for which it was created. We will deepen our discussion by attending three performances at the San Francisco Opera, one of the top three companies in the country. In class we will discuss the readings and bring the issues up to date through our own experiences, and we will study and view/listen to portions of operas from 1600s Italy to 21st century USA. No knowledge of music necessary, only curiosity, interest in challenging deep-seated assumptions, and openness to new ideas. Readiness to have fun a plus!

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